Dear White Food Blogger,
I was fine with the hummus. I really was. I love hummus; so, it’s only fair that everyone should get to bask in the glory that is the unequivocal creamy chickpea deliciousness of our sweet Levantine condiment. It really wasn’t the hummus, actually. It was the everything bagel seasoning. With the least amount of hyperbole I can muster, I will describe the feeling of standing in the fluorescent glow of the refrigerated section of the grocery store as an affront on my dignity, an insult to the very core of my being. The words “EVERYTHING BAGEL HUMMUS” shone at me from the shelf and burned themselves into the back of my skull. I was aghast. But also, I was curious, so it took a pretty significant amount of my willpower not to commit a literal crime against my heritage and purchase the doomed plastic container.
Since that cursed day, I have seen recipes for za’atar potato skins, a labneh dessert tart, and a host other truly frightening recipes that challenge the sanctity of the Lebanese cooking. Cooking that happens to be one of the few unifying bedrocks of our fractured country. But hey, I’m not here to yuck your yum; I’m here to obliterate it. I’d like to say that I would relish in extending an olive branch on the topic of intercultural food exchange, but frankly, I don’t have the time or the energy to explain to you — the person about to sprinkle za’atar on your tuna casserole — the rich cultural heritage of a centuries-old spice blend that has a multitude of other uses that don’t involve becoming avocado toast’s newest, gassed-up side piece.
I think I finally understand how the razor that Britney Spears used to shave her head in 2007 felt. Or how North Indians felt when everyone started eating butter chicken. It’s nice to get recognition for doing one of the basic things you’re good at, but why can’t anyone see that you have so much left to offer? It isn’t that I don’t want to spread the love, my dear food blogger. I suppose I just feel like I’m standing on the brink of watching an entire cuisine get gentrified by people who had never heard of it until two minutes ago.
In the grand scheme of human civilization, this is not the first time foods and traditions have made the journey to other parts of the world. We could even brand this new era of intercultural mingling if we felt so inclined, and I do happen to feel so inclined. So, welcome to “The Internet: Return of the Silk Road.” Who am I to stand in the way of another one of history’s bad sequels? It’s just that usually in a trade, both parties leave the bartering table with something they needed that they didn’t have before, and I don’t happen to be in the market for unbridled rage at the moment. Instead, let’s make a deal, you and I. Feel free to enjoy za’atar, labneh, halloum, and whatever happens to hit the Western market next. But please, for the love of God, can we just skip the part where I have to read a BuzzFeed article titled “Why You HAVE to Try Labneh, Literally the Best New Middle Eastern Condiment to Grace Your Kitchen”?